Imagination's Fool

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Jonah Goldberg part II

I've been lobbying to get Jonah Goldberg out here to Bowdoin since my freshman year, and I have to say, I wasn't disappointed with the final result. My thoughts and a few notes:

First of all, the reasons I wanted to have him speak here bore out mostly well:

1. We've got a fairly politically inactive campus, but those who are active tend to gravitate to the far left -- the Marxists and the Democratic Socialists, for example -- or the "far right" -- that is, the College Republicans, who are actually fairly middle-of-the-road but considerably more conservative than the rest of the campus. It's always good to get a conservative speaker out here to both spice things up and to make people question their views and arguments. Most speakers who come to campus just reinforce what Jonah called (and what many people call) the "social engineering" that goes on; it's good to shake things up and remind people that "diversity" also means diversity of opinion.

2. He's funny. He made an emphatic point that he's not a "humorist," per se, but it's undeniable that he's humorous. One of my more liberal friends who attended the lecture pointed out to me at dinner tonight that he though Jonah was too funny -- that he made light of some issues that shouldn't be made light of. I'd disagree. Humor can make you stop and think as well and as effectively as being solemn and serious all the time because what's funny is often simply hearing something that's entirely unexpected.

3. I'm not going to argue that he's incredibly profound (sorry, Jonah), but then, profundity isn't always necessary in the realm of political discussion. I find I agree with a lot of what he says -- and that he often says it better (and certainly funnier) than I feel I can. For example, he discussed shortly his adherence to conservative principles, and how, while he feels that the Republican Party is the conservative party, it doesn't always stick to conservative ideals such as smaller government. I came to a similar conclusion back in January that prompted my resignation as Vice Chair of the College Republicans (or, at least, that significantly contributed to it).

4. This is the one that didn't really play out so well: the crowd was most positive. Sue me for thinking that's bad, but it would have been a lot more fun if there had been more challenge from the lefter-leaning students on campus. I figure a fair number of them were attending a "diversity panel" that was held last night to discuss the status of homosexual/transgendered/whathaveyou students on campus and the perceived antagonism toward them, especially in the sports programs so couldn't make the time to attend. Apparently Jonah was also disappointed by this. Oh well.

I took a few notes with a leaky pen on the back of a notecard, and I'm having trouble reading most of them this evening, so I'll offer a quick blow-by-blow account before giving my take. He introduced the talk as "An Evening with Jonah Goldberg," and proceeded to jump from Iraq (at least the Kurds are doing well) to the a discussion of the released photos from Abu Ghraib (CBS shouldn't have released the pictures because the abuse had already been both reported and stopped and doing so wouldn't serve any good purpose, especially considering someone has now died because of them) to the election (the problem with John Kerry that even the liberals recognize is that...he sucks...but people are still stumping for him because "at least he's electable") to ripping on compassionate conservatism (because it's really just a version of Clintonism, and while Bush might actually care about being compassionate, he hasn't been all that conservative about it -- see, for example, his increases in federal spending and government expansion) to expressing his dislike of cliches (and how they're not an argument proper even though people try to use them as such) and finally onto a discussion of federalism (how it's "the best system for maximizing human happiness" because it allows groups of people within it to decide how they want to live -- but also how modern understanding of diversity doesn't include "diversity of attitudes," rather requiring a national standard that, frankly, not everyone's all that happy with).

This is the part where I pick out a point he made that I really disagreed with and tear it to bits. Or else, this is the part where I pick out a few points I really agreed with and highlight them. I'm going to confess I'm not great at this part, though -- not at this hour, not after I've spent a significant portion of the day in class, at work, and studying. And the new episode of Law and Order is on. I'll get back to you with the nitpicking later. My overall impression of the lecture? Fun, but not as effective as it could have been on this campus.

Arwyn 20:28
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3 Comments:

Ozy here.

I'd really love to mix politics and literature (as well as baseball, sports, music, etc.) with you and I've enjoyed reading about your thoughts from the last year plus. My favorite was your reaction to A-rod being traded to the Yanks. Classic.

Cutting to tonight's chase, I think the assertion that Mr. Berg lost his life due to the media's coverage of the photos from Abu Ghraib, as you state in parenthetical "CBS shouldn't have released the pictures because the abuse had already been both reported and stopped and doing so wouldn't serve any good purpose, especially considering someone has now died because of them", or even just the fact that the attrocities happened, is what is deadly wrong with the way Americans have reacted to the threat of terror.
Do you not think Al-Zarqawi is only using this as he would use anything to contort into a political statement, to feed their never ending contempt at taking innocent life? Their goal is not to stop the ill treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, or to return the dignity of the Arab people to the people of Arabia (or should I say just the men)? Their goal is to get us to blink in this life threatening game of chicken. They have and will use any excuse to spread terror and lies. Our goal should be to approach the Muslim world with a more intelligent message than that. It means being honest with them and owning up that even though we make mistakes, we condemn illegal acts of war. Denying the media their duty to present the facts, flies in the face of what our soldiers are risking their lives for.

Sidestepping just a bit, Senator McCain was asked not to long ago whether President Bush should apolagize for not having done enough to prevent that fateful September morning. He said those that think that way are truly missing the boat. The people that need to be held accountable is our enemy and those that support them.

Turning my attention to broader observations about McCain's warning, we have been left behind at port with luggage bags in hand. By golly how soon we forgot how strong it felt when we were all united, together, aiming our collective scorn to those who attacked and stole innocent life. Now, we are too busy finding fault in ourselves, thinking only of how taxing the extra security is, or how civil liberties are more important than human life, or how some politicians need more ego stroking, even now going as far as accusing ourselves for the attrocities they committ, knowing full well that is exactly what they want to happen.

Media coverage of POW attrocities had no hand in the loss of Mr. Berg, it was by the hands of Al-Queda terrorists operating in Iraq. And it is very important we make this clear in our mind, or else he died in vain.

Irony of all ironies ofcourse, those on the left can't admit the obvious fact that terrorists, not our Government, killed Mr. Berg because their is no link between Iraq and Al-Queda. Yup, no link. Not at all.

My two bits and more :)
Media coverage of POW attrocities had no hand in the loss of Mr. Berg, it was by the hands of Al-Queda terrorists operating in Iraq. And it is very important we make this clear in our mind, or else he died in vain.I'm not going to disagree with you on this at all, Ozy...but at the same time, do you think they would have killed him when they did, the way they did, if they couldn't use the released photos as an excuse to do so? I don't. And I don't think pictures of his death would be up all over the 'net, either.

Because, yes, I do think "Al-Zarqawi is only using this as he would use anything to contort into a political statement, to feed their never ending contempt at taking innocent life," etc. And I think that if CBS had refrained from publishing those pictures, that ammunition would have been denied him. It wouldn't have stopped him from doing other things -- but in war, the last thing you want to do is to hand ammunition over to your enemies.

Denying the media their duty to present the facts, flies in the face of what our soldiers are risking their lives for.Hmm. Yes, of course. I'm not saying the media shouldn't present the facts. What I'm saying is that, when they facts have already been presented (the New York Times ran a military press release as early as January) and when the wrongs have already been stopped (the abusing soldiers removed and replaced, actually, with Mainers)...then I'm not sure the press releasing those photos served any positive purpose except to make silly people angry at those same soldiers who are risking their lives.

Our goal should be to approach the Muslim world with a more intelligent message than that. It means being honest with them and owning up that even though we make mistakes, we condemn illegal acts of war.And I'm certainly not going to deny that we should do that -- what happened in the prison was wrong. No matter what the context, no matter why it was done, it was wrong. And it was especially wrong because, darn it, we're the good guys! We should own up to it and address it. But we don't need to give pictures like these over to countries with low literacy rates who can't also read that we are owning up to and condemning it, either.

So, yeah, I agree in all except the publishing pictures bit. ;) Thanks so much for commenting!
"So, yeah, I agree in all except the publishing pictures bit. ;) Thanks so much for commenting!"

I bet you agree most of all on the A-Rod bit. ;) Thank you for a forum for debate! I love it.

"Ozy...but at the same time, do you think they would have killed him when they did, the way they did, if they couldn't use the released photos as an excuse to do so?"

Nicholas was killed the same way Daniel Pearl died. Why? Because evil men do evil things. And four contractors died horrifically for no logical reason either. It is my understanding that they kidnapped him over a month ago. So they had some intent to do harm to him before the pictures came out. I agree they used the pictures as their opportunity to do the most damage to our cause. They made it their promotional "ammo" as you said. But with or without the photos, it is my suspicion that the real reason they took him hostage is that we have someone important of theirs in custody. By winning this war, we hit a nerve.

I agree that in conventional war, "the last thing you want to do is to hand ammunition over to your enemies." But we are fighting a psychological war. Let me put it another way. Would you give advice to a child to cower and stay silent in fear of a bully? Do you tell a rape victim they need to wear sweaters in June? Obviously, showing fear is ammo to the bully and showing skin ammo to a perverted mind. I believe you have to stay true to your values, despite how that makes you a target. Freedom of information is a value that is more American that the attrocities that occured.

"I'm not sure the press releasing those photos served any positive purpose except to make silly people angry at those same soldiers who are risking their lives."

Those people that are angry at us make me upset, ofcourse. But that is not the fault of the media. Media does it's job best by presenting the facts with professional decorum and allowing the viewer to deciminate the information.

"darn it, we're the good guys!"

Darn straight we are :)

"But we don't need to give pictures like these over to countries with low literacy rates who can't also read that we are owning up to and condemning it, either."

When you deal with people in anything, the risk involved from underestimating a person far outweighs going out of your way to overestimate them.

My $.02

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